The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge
Perhaps not as well known as the nearby choirs of St John’s, which certainly sings the best Evensongs in Cambridge, or King’s, which basks in the glory of incomparable architectural splendour, a concert during a tour of Australia showed the strength of the choir of Trinity. It began with Arvo Part’s marvellously fast paced Bogoroditse Djevo, that already sounds a though it has always been central to the canon; whereas a while ago Part was often spoken of as being part of a movement to which Henryk Gorecki and John Tavener, both recently deceased, also belonged, it has quickly become clear that his talent was by far the greatest. Three pieces from the English tradition by Byrd, Tallis and Purcell followed, beautifully sung without a conductor. Thereafter, most of the rest of the concert was given over to newish pieces. I found Steven Stucky’s O sacrum convivium a bit like an echo chamber in which solemn words rather flippantly bounced off each other, while Frank Martin’s Mass for unaccompanied double choir, despite some fine passages in the Credo, failed to hold interest. But two short pieces from the Vigilia by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, a pupil of Sibelius, were breathtaking in their simplicity and power; this is a composer to keep an ear open for.
The concert concluded with Herbert Howells’ Te Deum, a well known crowd pleaser that builds to a climax with its final triumphant shout ‘O Lord in thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.’ Superbly sung, it left the audience on a high. But the Te Deum sits more comfortably within the English cathedral and college tradition that developed at the time of the Reformation than among the other pieces sung that were composed in the twentieth century, and perhaps represents a throw back rather being something of its own period. The future of the tradition so splendidly exploited by the choir of Trinity is unclear, and it will be interesting to see what develops.